Interview with Natural Hair Blogger – Crystal Afro

Crystal

Rochelle Crystal Brooks-Ford is a born and bread londoner who lives with her mum in Wandsworth. Rochelle is a popular Natural Hair blogger so many of you will know her better as Crystal Afro. Crystal blogs about everything, events, hair products and more.  I was pleased she decided to  join me for a chat in The Natural Lounge, here is her interview.

 

So before we start tell us some little known facts about you

Until recently I don’t think many people knew my first name is Rochelle. Crystal is actually one of my many middle names including “Crystal Claire”. It’s a long story!
I was a finalist in Miss Jamaica UK 2010. Oh, and I recently started a new blog, but I’ll share more info on that, once there’s more to tell.

 

I’m sure we went natural around the same time and have watched the UK market grow can it do anymore growing? Is there anymore space for new bloggers, products, youtubers etc. 

YES!! Definitely, everyone’s story is unique and a fantastic opportunity to inspire others. In fact I’d encourage more natural ladies to get online, get blogging and as I said before, “Be seen!” None us ladies can re-adjust the balance of representation alone. It takes support from one and other. The more of us there are, the stronger we’ll be and the more changes we’re likely to see, so I definitely encourage more women who are going natural to share their experiences and “Be Seen!”

Crystal 2

Crystal you are everywhere, where do you find time to blog, tweet, youtube, facebook, etc?

It used to be fine but I’m working more often now so it’s a lot harder. Also, the keypad on my phone broke earlier in the year, which meant my twitter life went on hold – I hated it, but it did help me find a new love for Instagram, where the pictures can do the talking.
I think the amount of time I spent on the blog etc seems strange to my family and friends sometimes, but I’m passionate about my subject.

On the other hand there are so many new forms of social media that I just choose to be honest with myself and only update the platforms I feel like, when I feel like it. I abandoned my Tumblr for weeks! Lol

 

What do you do when you are not blogging?

At the moment when I’m not blogging I’m working on ideas for an exhibition that’s opening this July called The Origins Of The Afro Comb (which everyone is welcome to take part in). In my day job I am a freelance Dresser and currently working on The Lion King.

Crystal at Work

What inspired you start blogging about natural hair?

A few things, firstly the Kobena Mercer quote I came across in University:
What does the Black spectator identify with when his/ her mirror image is structurally absent or present only as Other?”(Mercer K, 1996)
That question really had a huge impact on me and was one of the driving forces in my decision to go natural and to blog about it.
The impact of history on today’s definitions of beauty in modern Britainare obvious, and Black women still have a fair way to go before we can honestly say our natural hair is equally accepted and celebrated for it’s beauty in mainstream British society. Starting my blog was just my mini contribution towards evening out the playing fields. As the quote suggests, it’s so important to be seen, and have people we can identify with. Consequently, your blog (The Natural Lounge) was a huge inspiration to me! It was the first British natural hair blog that I ever read, and everything you said seemed to echo my thoughts entirely. Seeing that you were doing this, inspired me to believe I really could do the same.

 

Aww thank you hun thats really nice. Has your life changed in anyway way since you started?

Yea definitely! I knew social media was the new thing but I never realised it’s life changing ability until now. I’ve met SO many new people who for a while I only knew as “@SoandSo” now we meet up for dinner, shopping, staying over and even baby showers! It’s definitely gone beyond social media and hair.
There are so many other things that have happened that I never imagined, and that still take me by surprise, like being contacted by journalists, or being featured in Black Hair Magazine. It makes me get all nervous and excited. I still get surprised when Im offered free products to try for reviews, or to write for a major blog like Naturalbelle, or asked to do interviews like this one. I keep saying thank you to God for the blessings, I’m truly amazed and grateful.

Spot the blogger/Vlogger/Product Producer 🙂

 

Your hair always looks lovely, what are your favourite products and what is your hair regime?

I think I have a different answer for every time I’ve been asked this. I promise I’m not a liar, it’s just that my favourite is always changing but at the moment I love everything I’ve tried from the Keracare Natural Textures range including the Leave-In, the Hair Milk and the Butter Cream. Also, Shea Bliss Deep Conditioner by BeUnique Hair Care, Jamaican Black Castor Oil, and Tresemme Naturals Vibrantly Smooth Conditioner.

My hair routine is pretty basic:
I pre-poo with a mix of Olive Oil and a cheap conditioner (sometimes I just use the Tresemme Naturals conditioner on it’s own). I do this mainly to make detangling my hair easier.
Then I shampoo, deep condition, rinse and follow up with a leave-in conditioner while my hair is still wet, and a little castor oil on my scalp. I usually style my hair while it’s wet, or if I’m about to go to bed, just put it in chunky twists to dry.

Crystal Afro 3

Tell us about your work on the Afro Comb’s Exhibition in Cambridge, what’s it all about?

I’m part of the committee helping to put together the Origins Of The Afro Comb exhibition that will open July 2nd 2013. The exhibition is a pretty major one with items on loan from the British Museum, Petrie Museum and I think we have some stuff coming over from the University of Nigeria. It’s a look at the 6,000 year old history of the Afro Comb from the Pre-Dynastic period of Egypt to the 21st Century in the UK and North America.
I’m really excited about it as afro combs are not only iconic, but studying their development though the centuries sheds so much light on the various circumstances and practices of societies and cultures across Africa and the Diaspora.I’m particularly keen to place emphasis on the British experience, as ours (Black British) is no where near as well documented as that of Americans and some others.

Museum

Anything you wanna share with the readers?

I’ll be tweeting and posting links, updates and opportunities to get involved in the Origins Of The Afro Comb exhibition as often as I can, so if any one want to get in touch please do.
In the mean time people are welcome to take part on Instagram by posting pictures of your hair tools and using the hastag: #AfroCombEx. There have been some really creative pictures

Afro Comb

 

Thank you so much for your time Crystal. Reading this back and looking at your photos I am regretting not asking you how you keep your skin looking so lovely!! hahaha

Anyway readers you can visit Cystal’s blog by going to www.unitedkinkdom.blogspot.co.uk

Signature

The RoseBox Launch & Mixer event



On Thursday I went to a launch and mixer event of a new product called The RoseBOX.

The RoseBOX founded by Rose Akoko is a service where for £20 subscription you receive a box a month filled with products for your natural hair. In the box there will be at least one full sized product and then others for you to try and test.

Rose’s mission was to take away the stress of looking for new products or wasting money on products that may not work for your hair.  She has created monthly, one off or annual subscriptions and is even considering personalised boxes and ones for children. The website has not quite yet launched but here is the link. The Rose Box Website

The event itself was loads of fun I felt that there were so many people who came to support.  Here are my photos. 

Rose herself giving us the lowdown. 
Samples of the boxes themselves
We got some food. 

After this it was mingle time…look at all the people I bumped into 

Allison aka Cinnirox
candidcinni.blogspot.co.uk

Me with Rachy From UK Natural’s
uknaturals.blogspot.co.uk

Me with Ketisha (aka) Sugar Kenisis
www.sugarkinesis.com

Me, Africa Brown & Rachel from Afrocenchix
www.afrocenchix.com

I spotted Crystal Afro in the bathroom doing her hair 🙂
Crystal Afro (After her bathrooom transformation) and me
www,unitedkinkdom.blogspot.co.uk

Pelumi from Care for your hair with me
www.cfyh.co.uk

Me and Wunmi from Woman in the Jungle
www.womaninthejungle.com

There were so many more but I didnt have time to take that many photos was too busy chatting. It was a lovely evening and I am glad I went. 
Signature

Interview with Belinda Raj – BeUNIQUE Hair Care

Belinda Raj

Belinda Raj is a popular vlogger and has been on YouTube since August 2009. She currently lives in Kent but was born and brought up in South East London. As well as being a full time Media and Film teacher she formed her company BeUNIQUE last year. Recently she has been distributing samples of one of the products her Mango Twist. This has been getting rave reviews so I thought I would catch up with her to find out more. 


Q. Hi Belinda so why did you set up the YouTube Channel? 
I set up the channel after finding it difficult to find any UK naturals on YouTube. BeUNIQUE Hair Care Ltd was formed in June 2010, after making the decision to try and launch it as a real business. 


Q. It wasn’t always called BeUNIQUE Hair Care though was it, you were originally 4Nappiness4eva why the name change and why the move?
I started 4Nappiness4Eva because I felt that there was a lack of (in fact at the time I found just 2) UK naturals on YouTube. When the American ladies were talking about products they had used I soon realised that I couldn’t get them over here. I wanted to be someone that British ladies could relate too. I started the new channel because I wanted to create a channel that would be the face of my brand and in essence create a channel that marked a new journey for me and that would be the journey of me trying to get my business off the ground. 


Q. You are one of the few people I know that did the big chop all the way – you actually took it all off and looked stunning with it, what did people say?
My husband was in shock! I warned him that I was going to do it and he was the only one with any foreknowledge that the decision to do the big chop was on my mind. He came home one day and there I was with his clippers in my hand looking in the bathroom mirror struggling to shave the back, I asked for assistance and he walked back out lol. I sent out a picture when I did the big chop and everyone was in shock, my Mum said that she couldn’t look at me as she felt I looked like a cancer patient. I was a bigger shock when I did it a second time! 


After the Big Chop





Q. LOL wait you did it twice? Why? 
I dyed my hair blonde, then I used what I thought was a natural relaxer, a product by Fresh Look described as ‘Bodiphier Natural Hair Relaxer’, personally I feel it was no different to a real relaxer, I then dyed my hair again this time black because I felt that this would disguise the dryness but I was wrong! I tried to trim the ends of my poor TWA using my husbands clippers yet again, but then I thought, hey, why not just start again, and no, I will not do it ever again. I would say that if you are thinking about going natural, I would most definitely tell everyone to just take it ALL off, it’s a very liberating experience, and I was lucky enough to experience it twice. 


Blonde Hair Dye

Big Chop II





Q. I really often wish I too had done that but lets rewind, why did you decide to go natural in the first place? 
I have always loved my hair and people have always complemented me on my hair with regards to the length and its ability to grow very fast. So when my hair started thinning at the hairline I was quite disturbed, I tried using growth aids but nothing happened. I decided it was time to get rid of the relaxer I thought that was the only solution. I didn’t think that long about it because I had always liked my natural hair, I just got a relaxer cause my friends had one. 


Q. I just recently read an article where a man threatened to leave his wife over her ‘nappy hair’ did it cause problems with you and your hubby? 
 No, not at all although he himself had reservations about me going natural he now says he sees the benefits and that he thinks natural hair is beautiful. He would tell other women to go for it! 


Belinda & her Husband 



Q. You modelled at Naturally Fabulous and took part in the London Belle’s Photoshoot what was that experience like?
I LOVED IT! Taking part in events like that and meeting people at events like that has just revealed a whole new level of sisterhood to me. Everyone is so supportive and complementary and genuinely nice! I am by nature a quiet person and not very sociable but going on this journey and meeting the people I have has made me develop as a person inside and out. All of the women who took part in the photoshoot had great spirit and working with Mahogany and LeAnne was great, I can’t wait for the magazine to come out!  



Q. Well the main reason why I’m interviewing you today is because I heard on the grapevine you are actually setting up your own product range – how exciting, tell me about it?
Very early on in my journey I decided to become a ‘Kitchen Beautician’, simply out of necessity, as many products sold at the local beauty supply store contained ingredients that weren’t beneficial to healthy hair growth or maintenance. My Mum also influences me as she is into alternative medicine and believes that Aloe Vera and Wheat Grass (Urgh!) are the cure for all aliments! Joking aside she believes that there is a natural alternative to every prescribed drug, I took that thinking and applied to hair products. I search out and research lesser known butters and oils and create unique formulations that will do the same if not better things for your hair than off the shelf products. I believe that your hair is your crown and should wear it like a queen; my products will support the process of preserving, styling and maintaining healthy kinky coily hair. 


Q. I have been actually one of the lucky few to try out your ‘Mango Twist’ and everyone is raving about and I can put my hands up and say it really does work, can you explain what it is, how people use it, how much it is and when oh when will it be available? 
Mango Twist started off as a water free hair balm and after almost 2 years it can now be described as a moisturising styling cream for twists and braids, every ingredient serves its own discreet purpose. You can use it on dry on damp hair, damp is best, smooth it through small sections of hair and twist or braid, when you’re ready take down the twists or braids and you will have excellent definition and shine. I couldn’t live without it! I am aiming to have the product on the market early next year. £8.95 (125g) £13.95 (250g) 





Belinda I am wishing you lots of luck with it. Readers, you can visit Belinda’s Website by going to www.beuniquehaircare.co.uk there you will also find a link to her YouTube Channel

Signature